Excerpts of PBS Weighs Separation Of Church & Stations by Paul Farhi of the Washington Post
PBS stations are debating the limits of one of public television's basic commandments: Thou shalt not broadcast religious programming. The discussion, some station managers fear, could lead to a ban on faith-oriented programs that have appeared on public stations for decades despite the prohibition.
The Public Broadcasting Service's board is to vote next month on a committee's recommendation to strip the affiliation of any station that carries "sectarian" content.
Under bylaws enacted in 1985, PBS stations are required to present programs that are noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. The rules were put in place to ensure balance and fairness among PBS-affiliated stations.
The definition of "nonsectarian" programming has always been loosely interpreted, and the rule has never been strictly enforced, according to PBS officials.
The current proposal would deem "religious services of faith-based groups" as inappropriate. "The intent is for [PBS stations] to show editorial independence," Lawson said.
KBYU in Provo, Utah, for example, is operated by Brigham Young University, which in turn is affiliated with the Mormon Church. The station airs much of the usual PBS fare -- "Arthur," "Barney," "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" -- but also broadcasts two hours a day of "BYU Devotional," which includes lectures from leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.